President Obama blamed a “systemic failure” in the nation’s security apparatus for the attempted bombing of a passenger jet on Christmas Day and vowed to identify the problems and “deal with them immediately.”
He said a preliminary assessment already confirmed a breakdown in the intelligence review system that failed to properly identify the suspect as a dangerous extremist who should have been prevented from flying to the United States.
“A systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable,” the president told reporters here Hawaii. He has ordered government agencies to report back to him on Thursday about what happened and said he would “insist on accountability at every level,” but no details were offered.
The president’s blunt words seemed directed at his secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, who insisted “the system worked” after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to ignite several explosive chemicals aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as it began its approach to the Detroit airport. Ms. Napolitano quickly backpedaled and blamed reporters, as usual, for taking her comments out of context. No, they didn’t; they merely quoted her exact remarks. The president’s harsh assessment made it clear that he wasn’t satisfied by the government’s performance. It’s time for Napolitano to step down. She failed to maintain reasonable oversight for her department’s actions leaving the country at risk for further such attacks. Ironically, the president made a 180 while praising the professionalism of the nation’s intelligence, counterterrorism, homeland security and law enforcement officials, but called the breakdown a “mix of human and systemic failures” that did not catch Mr. Abdulmutallab in the first place. That tends to happen when so many other issues gain higher priorities than actual national security. He’s in a bit of a quandary; he appointed her and knows she’s over her head and making him and the administration look soft on homeland security. Step up Mr. President and cut her loose. He’s a golfer and surely knows what they say at Nike, “Just do it.”
There’s no place I need to get in a real hurry any time soon, but odds are the next time I travel out of the area in a rush it’ll be in the seat of my car rather than being seated on a commercial airliner.